“No, we didn’t get to the Côte d’Azur this year. We’ve been on holiday in Iraq. Don’t look so horrified – we avoided all the touristy parts.”
If you were making a checklist for a successful journey to Iraq, “new beach bag” would be unlikely to figure in the top ten. It’s not exactly the kind of place you see showcased in travel agency posters. But the fact is while this land of mountains, deserts and wetlands might not be many people’s first choice for a holiday getaway, the prevailing view often masks a more complicated and fascinating truth. And if you get restless after five minutes in a hammock with Stieg Larsson, a bespoke adventure in Iraq may be just the antidote you need to run-of-the-mill vacations.
Of course, your well-being is our first concern; we’ll arrange the appropriate level of protection throughout your trip. But while there are areas we’d advise against visiting – typically spots that wouldn’t feature on a traveller’s itinerary anyway – we’ve explored plenty of places, especially in northern Iraq, where you’ll receive a relaxed and friendly welcome that seems totally disconnected from the urgent tone of CNN reports.
Obviously experiencing daily life firsthand is an ideal way to learn about a country that’s played such a pivotal role in recent history. You can pick up more from an hour-long chat in a café – talking to local people who are as curious about your reasons for visiting as you are to gain their perspective – than you’ll gain through untold hours of research. We’ll arrange for you to meet with leading Iraqi political and religious figures, and we can have a journalist or politician or former military officer accompany you on your journey.
As for Iraq’s ancient history, it’s in many ways the source from which all history flows. The kingdoms of Sumer and Akkad, which developed about 4,000 years ago on the banks of the Tigris River, were the first that we’d define as “civilizations.” They were followed by the Mesopotamian flowering that we all learned about in school. By the time of King Nebuchadnezzar, around 600 B.C., the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were among the Seven Wonders of the World. It takes a leap of imagination to get from there to modern-day Baghdad, but we know experts who can help bridge the gap and reveal the capital’s ancient secrets.
In the Kurdish north, meanwhile, you’ll discover a region whose long, proud history in many ways feels far removed from the rest of the country. And if you travel in March, you can join in the Nawruz festival, when people greet the new spring and every celebration includes delicious Kurdish cuisine, with its blend of Turkish and Persian influences.
Of course Iraq remains a troubled nation – but its future is looking brighter than at any time in the past three decades. Brown + Hudson can take you well past the headlines to see for yourself.
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